The Duchess War: The Brothers Sinister, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly - so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past.
Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.
But that is precisely what she gets.
Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he's up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he's determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy Miss may prove to be more than his match...
The Duchess War is the first full-length book in the Brothers Sinister series. It is preceded by The Governess Affair, a prequel novella.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 3 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||October 08, 2013|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #32,134 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#464 in Historical Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,803 in Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#6,054 in Historical Romances
Top reviews from the United States
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One thing that I have come to expect from a Courtney Milan book is the unconventional characters who are well-developed and realistic without being boring since she is not afraid to provide readers with characters that may not be widely accepted (today and in the past) and seems to enjoy seeing how much she can push the envelope. Almost all the characters in The Duchess War seemed to follow this pattern from the main couple (Robert and Minnie) to the side characters.
Our hero is Robert Blaisdell, a young duke, who is more than what he first appears. Because while Robert may seem like the fairly typical English lord, he is anything but. I can't go too much into the truth about him without spoiling it for future readers, but it is fabulous to discover and very unique for that time period. I love when authors take cliched archetypes and shows how twisted they can be with the right amount of development.
Minnie, the heroine, is similar to Robert in that she is so much more than she appears which, in her case, is a shy wallflower. I have read many romances with wallflowers as heroines and most of them have a reason for their place in society, but I don't think I have ever read a wallflower with as valid a reason to avoid society's attention that Minnie. Her past is a little over-the-top, but I can really appreciate what Milan was doing with her character.
As a couple, Robert and Minnie are very unorthodox. I have seen reviews that comment on the fact that they don't seem to have much of a connection and that it is difficult to see why they feel the way they do about each other. I can see where those reviewers are coming from, but, for me, that was the beauty of this love story. At first glance, they shouldn't work as a couple, but each of them gets something from the other that they desperately need. The romance is very slow-burning and Ms. Milan takes her time getting them together, but it is so worth it by the end and I really admire the writing skills it takes to make something like this happen.
There is a pretty large cast in The Duchess War and I found there to be a nice balance between introducing some key secondary people and keeping the main storyline moving. Ms. Milan takes time to develop her less than important characters and I think that helps make her books stand out. For example, she spends a bit of time on Robert's mother who he feels abandoned him throughout his childhood. What is great about her is that she is not just the neglectful mother. The author obviously took the time to really think about this woman and what her marriage must have been like to cause such a negative relationship with her son. She took what could have been a cliched villain-like character and made her sympathetic and worthy of a second chance.
My personal favorites of the side characters though were the other Brothers Sinister: Robert's half-brother Oliver (a bastard whose mother and stepfather were the focus of The Governess Affair), Sebastian (a science-loving lord), and Violet (the sole female and a very uncoventional countess). Each of them was given a proper introduction which made me excited to read their own stories especially Sebastian.
And, finally, I have to mention the historical setting the Ms. Milan provides her readers. The Brothers Sinister series takes place in Victorian England which is a time of great changes politically, economically, and socially. What is great about this book is the use of the time period to provide background for the characters and give them a purpose. Some of the issues brought up in The Duchess War are radical politics, organized labor, and Darwinism. I will say that sometimes I think the story got a bit bogged down by all the historical context midway through, but it quickly picked up again.
All in all, I found this to be another successful historical romance for Ms. Milan. She is truly a talented writer who knows how to take her characters and give them so much life one would expect them to jump off the page. Plus the development of the romances is done skillfully and realistically in a way that is rare in today's historicals. I really recommend this book to other readers especially if they are willing to give the story the chance to slowly develop into something poignant and beautiful.
The first time they meet is at a gathering of sorts Robert is hiding behind some curtains in the library for whatever reason and spies a very severe looking Minnie squinting at a chessboard that is until she puts on her glasses and picks up a knight from the board proceeding to kiss it. Each time Robert and Minnie meet it is hard to imagine that these two will ever get together. Robert seems to be used to women throwing themselves at him for the simple facts that he is just gorgeous and a duke. So Robert has it in his head that he can get away with pretty much anything decides to write a handbill that suspiciously others think that Minnie had written it. Minnie even though accused of writing it begins to suspect who it could be in her small circle of friends and deduces that it could be the one person she isn't associated with Robert. Minnie immediately confronts Robert but for some reason can't call him out. Robert likes this about Minnie she's intelligent without being stuffy and not fascinated by him which he can't resist. Minnie yes is instantly attracted to him but since everyone wants him shows indifference to him. The verbal bantering and the sexual tension heighten with each encounter between them making the book quite a page turner!
So even with all the politics which wasn't too preachy or making the book bogged down with it and the politics surrounding the characters, the secrets between them and the personal secrets each one holds the story unfolds slowly but it just pulls you in. I was fascinated with Minnie's quick wit, her intelligence and strength. I loved the aspect of chess in the book and how it played a minor role furthering the plot making Minnie and Robert a part of a well-played game of chess where they became the pieces not the people playing the game. Minnie appeared suddenly in the world of chess but then disappeared reminding me of a female version of Bobby Fischer. I did however have a poor idea especially from the descriptions in the book of what she looked like in my mind never viewing her as anything spectacular to look at so okay she wasn't pretty or beautiful. There was just something about her I believe she used her clothes and the way she carried herself as a sort of mask to hide from the world. She didn't want others to really see her for what she was. In fact Minnie was quite beautiful but had to hide it from the world portraying what she wanted other's to see in her a timid mousy appearance which wasn't who she really was. I did at times wonder what Robert saw in her? I think Robert wanted someone like Minnie to not have everyone fawn over him. It did frustrate him also because he wanted and expected Minnie to do that as well. Which really got on my nerves several times that I really wanted to either shake or reason with him that not everyone has to like you because your pretty and titled so don't expect it all the time. I did wonder about the brother sinister group wanting more information about the group also did it start with Mr. Marshall, Robert's dad or did it start with Olliver and Robert? I guess now I will have to go back and read the governess affair which I have purchased just to figure this all out. Despite this one thing and my issues with the characters I still rated the book four stars, will read it again and will get more books from Ms. Milan.
Top reviews from other countries
Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not your average aristocrat. His father was a womanising b*****d (not in the literal sense) who relied on his status to get away with anything he wanted, which has made Robert determined to be everything his father was not. Yet he is still the Duke of Clermont, so many people are unable to see past his title.
Until he meets Wilhelmina (Minnie) Pursling. On the outside she looks like the quiet, mousey type, but underneath is a razor-sharp intelligence, and Robert soon finds this out to his disadvantage.
You see, when I say that Robert is not your average aristocrat, I mean this in the sense that he tries to use his position to better the lot of those less fortunate than he, to the point that he is determined to abolish the peerage. He tries to right the wrongs his father has wrought, and at the start of this book he is writing and publishing seditious pamphlets to try and draw out someone who has been abusing his position. This is the industrial age; workers are starting to do things like try to form unions, go on strike to try and get better working conditions, and the upper class don't like it one bit, because God forbid that the cattle should have opinions of their own. Surely they can't have brains, right?
The plot is not what kept me engaged in this book, though it is by no means trite or predictable. What kept me enthralled were the constant surprises I came across. I have never, ever seen a Romance where even one of the main characters masturbates, never mind both of them, and I have always found it rather daft that in Romance, men in particular seem to resort to cold showers and whatnot rather than beating the old snake to get rid of their sexual frustration. Especially since that's exactly what most men do. And most women, for that matter.
Anyway, I won't mention every single instance where this book delighted me, but the characters were endearing and very believable, the dialogue was wonderful and often very funny, and I sniggered out loud at the scene where Robert joins Minnie on the train and gets his cousin and their childhood friend to chaperone him.
Truly wonderful, and refreshingly original.
Who is Miss Wilhelmina Pursling? She does not really exist, she is a creation to make Miss Minerva Lane safe from her past and from a terrible treason. When she caught the eye of the ninth Duke of Clermont, Robert, she just wants to get rid of him and carry on her unexciting existence. Just to be safe. But Robert too has a secret. Fate will unite them like two survivors from a capsized boat clinging to the same piece of wood. They will have to ride the high waves together. But, Robert, as a Duke, is practically untouchable. Minerva, aka Wilhelmina, on the other hand, is the ideal candidate for being branded a criminal. And what about Oliver, Robert's half brother, his father's bastard?
In The Duchess War, I have also learned why the series is called The Brother Sinister, which is not said in the first book The Governess Affair (The Brothers Sinister) .
Even though the book can be read as a stand alone, it helps to have read the Governess Affair. All the characters in this book are so likeable (except the Duchess, but at the end, we understand why she is so indifferent... but is she really? and Stevens). Robert is a tortured soul looking for love and approval and does not know that he is a lovely man in his own right, Minerva want to escape her past at all costs, even if it will cost her Robert's love. The peripheral characters are great, you really can feel the complicity between Robert, Oliver and Sebastien his cousin.
This is a lovely book that I recommend to anyone fond of love, intrigue and a bit of nail biting. And if you keep a look out, you can pick up The Governess Affair for very little, as it is often promoted free.
I have now downloaded A Kiss for Midwinter (The Brothers Sinister) which is the last one of the Brothers Sinister and I feel a bit sad as it is a short story and I would have loved more of them....
But I will definitely read more from Courtney Milan. I am hooked on her books...
Robert is handsome and rich etc, but he's also not an alpha-hole. He realises that Minnie is cleverer than he is and he's totally fine with that.
The dialogue is excellent. The secondary characters were extremely likeable without being anodyne. To be honest, it's worth reading just for the conversation about how dragons can't milk princesses because they don't have opposable thumbs.
Smart heroines, beta heroes (albeit broad shouldered, rich and handsome ones), good dialogue... I'll read more of Courtney Milan's books
It is nice to read a story that has an exceptionally strong and intelligent female character in the lead so to speak, ( I usually find in historical romances that the female of the story is quite weak and only interested in buttons and bows and getting a husband), so Minnie is quite refreshing and unusual for a woman of her day.
I could go on like some do in the their reviews and spoil the story, but I won't, Ms Milan does the story telling so much better and if you want to know what it's about read the synopsis as I did, but I will just say pass by at your peril you will miss reading,a really good book if you don't buy it.